Thursday 6 December 2018

The Digital Computer and the Implicate Order

All living things "compute" (literally, "com-putare"... they "contemplate with"). The human-digital computer system (the whole system of humans and machines), is a system where the computations in people are constrained by the logic circuits in a machine. Since we are allergic to the uncertainty that is produced within our human "computing system", the constraints of the digital computer are welcomed - they provide ways of attenuating our uncertainty and giving us "answers".

But if we look at living things as computers, and seek to contemplate with them, we would, I think, look at the world in a very different way. It is not the attenuation of uncertainty that we should seek from our contemplation. It is instead guidance on how to act to maintain the coherence of life.

This "acting to maintain coherence" is essentially a process of understanding when and how to generate redundancies in our human system. The digital computer can be used to generate redundancies, but a lot of the time it is used to attenuate reality and to generate "information", which is the opposite of redundancy.

What I mean by coherence is, at its most basic level, a hologram, or a fractal. It is a fundamental process which encapsulates totality. When things fall apart, the fractal loses its internal coherence. When this happens, it is necessary to generate new redundancies, and sometimes new variety. But we need to know what to do and how to do it.

The fundamental question we should ask ourselves is how we might apprehend this hologram. It is close to what David Bohm called the "implicate order". Essentially it is unknowable, but some features can be perceived - particularly in the growth of living things, and especially music.

Music is a kind of computation. Music specifically shows the ways in which redundancies are required to be generated to maintain coherent life: a new accompaniment, a new melody, a modulation, are all ways in which music computes the nature of perception. Each new moment is not an accident. It is an expression of the whole, or an intervention to reveal the whole.

Digital computers are powerful enough to give a glimpse into the computations of nature. It is the latter computations which are our best guide for making collective decisions.

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